Darlings – the new Alia Bhatt film, which hits theaters Friday on Netflix – aims to be a black revenge comedy thriller. In it, a young woman (Bhatt) trapped in an abusive marriage seeks revenge for the years spent on her by her alcoholic husband (Vijay Varma). When it comes to duration, though, the film is oddly split between the torture Bhatt’s character goes through and the plans she devises after crossing her breaking point. But it doesn’t just make you wait so long for the starter – it takes up half of the movie’s 134 minutes – Darlings really doesn’t know how to raise the stakes and direction even after that crucial moment. . It continues as before, with narrative dynamics never really increasing.
On one level, it’s because Honey – was directed by Jasmeet K. Reen, a screenplay she co-wrote with Parveez Sheikh (Queen, BellBottom) – is more of an error comedy than an honest dark comedy. Sometimes it’s like a movie Hrishikesh Mukherjee, say Gol Maalmore than a literal revenge comedy thriller in its vein, à la Promising young woman. Before its release, the cast and crew of Darlings attempted to “educate” audiences about what the phrase dark comedy means. But when Netflix movies show, they themselves don’t understand. This leads to tonal imbalances, with Darlings switching between different genres unnecessarily. If you’re making a dark comedy as you intend, things need to be in that direction from minute 1.
Darlings ‘cannot choose a lane proves that Bollywood the end is too afraid to really get the dark. But sometimes, it’s not even about the big changes – it’s the order of mixing the ingredients. For example, a character hiding their heartache behind dialogue seems like a joke. Except that we only learn this towards the end when Netflix The film reveals the character’s past. Honey it would be better if it let us know this soon. Because then, all of this character’s words will be considered comedies by other characters, but they will carry a much darker meaning to the audience. By doing the opposite, the lines are also funny to us. It is failures like this that ultimately make the Darlings not what it wants.
Three years after their honeymoon and settling in a home in the Byculla neighborhood of Southeast Mumbai, Badrunissa “Badru” Shaikh, née Ansari (Bhatt) is regularly beaten by her abusive husband, Hamza Shaikh (Varma). To the extent that the people living around them are used to the sounds that come from their homes every night. Badru believes Hamza’s drinking – his day begins with a shot – is part of the problem. And implied that his government job, where he worked as a conductor for the Railways, but was also done cleaning his boss’s toilets, contributed to his frustration, which he then bears for his wife. Make no mistake: Hamza is the villain in Darlings, as he manipulates Badru’s emotions and twists events to suit himself.
While her mother is Shamshunissa “Shamshu” Ansari (Shefali Shah) has told Badru that she needs to stay away from Hamza from day one, Badru believes she can fix him. Darlings never really made it clear whether it was because she loved him in a strange way, or if it was because she was devoted to her big plan. Badru has planned for many years of his life: first child in 2020, a big house in 2021, second child in 2022 and a car in 2024. That’s why. she kept pushing Hamza to sign off on a builder’s proposed redevelopment plan (that would certainly familiarize the place and push them out, even though the Netflix series never actually solve that). However, that angers Hamza even more, and Badru realizes that she must come up with a plan to fix him for good.
But no matter how hard she tries, Hamza isn’t inclined to do better than empty promises. And when his anger goes too far one night, Badru accepts that his husband cannot be changed. Well, for 10 minutes anyway. Darlings has a particular problem in that its protagonist constantly swings back and forth between Hamza-went-too-far and I-still-care for Hamza. While Badru feels too passive for the first hour, she’s too aimless for the second, even when the character is supposed to be her own. But the character’s transformation – from a nave and innocent young woman to a strong, dynamic and controlling person – is constantly undermined by Netflix’s desire to create comedic sequences. , including many policemen (Vijay Maurya).
The plot spoilers gently followed.
And that’s how Darlings turns into a comedy of flaws. Early in the second act, when Badru thinks about how to fix her husband, her mother says she should just kill him. When Shamshu received a call from the police a minute later, the mother-daughter duo panicked, thinking that the police had somehow eavesdropped on them. 🤦♀️ The following scene is more familiar than in Hera Pheri. Later, after Badru decided to teach Hamza a lesson, Hamza’s boss – the same person who made him clean the toilet – started asking about him. The next scene is also more Hera Pheri. Even then, when Badru wondered what to do with Hamza (who was sitting tied up in a chair in their apartment), the mother and daughter decided to file a complaint about a missing person. Why bring that kind of spotlight on yourself?
The only thing that saved them from being caught was an innocent decision by Zulfi (Roshan Mathew), a young man hovers around Shaikhs and Ansaris, like he’s flipping through a Netflix movie. Mathew doesn’t need to exist in this story, as his presence is more or less high school for the Darlings. Zulfi is important to its plot and plot, but he doesn’t have much to do.
In addition to the humorous misapplication, what makes Darlings consequential is its misunderstanding of the approach to the story and the continuity of the character. After Hamza promises to correct his mistake, a follow-up scene is emotionally framed, replete with a musical clip. It’s understandable that Badru may be deceiving himself, but why is the movie also delusional? Elsewhere, while the Netflix series never explores the trauma some characters carry, for most others it is left on their doorstep. They don’t carry the wound – as they usually do – from scene to scene. This is important to the film because it allows for its smooth comedy, but creates dissension in the audience’s mind.
Like the execution of the movie’s ideas, the ending is also very confusing. On the one hand, it turns out that the Darlings are a moral universe. But in the search for a powerful ending – we get a fullscreen PSA, internal a movie – the Netflix movie basically turns Badru into Alia Bhatt. At least Darlings ends up in movie theaters. Something the movie was designed for – you can sense the “time” counted to Badru’s “transformation” moment – before it made its way to streaming. It’s interesting that Netflix becomes the destination, because Shah Rukh Khan is owned by red chili is a manufacturer here.
Late 2017, Netflix Co-Founder and CEO Reed Hastings personally flew down to the court Shah Rukh Khan, taking its Red Chillies banner to produce movies and series for its platform. I imagine that in the hope that one day such a deal could lead to a Netflix movie with India’s darling. That dream never came true, with the deal dying dead as the Red Chillies produced late-cabinet content for Netflix – remember led by Emraan Hashmi Bard of Bloodzombie horror miniseries Betaalor the crime thriller led by Bobby Deol Class ’83? – over the years.
While the Darlings may seem like a throwback to those days, it’s (most likely) not. Red Chillies hasn’t produced an original for Netflix since 2020. And more importantly on Darlings, it’s co-producing alongside Eternal Sunshine, the new banner of first-time producer Bhatt. Darlings is the start of its Alia Bhatt business – and Netflix no doubt prays that this partnership turns out to be more fruitful than the last.
Darlings Released Friday, August 5 at 12:30pm IST on Netflix worldwide.